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Unconscious fearful body expression perception enhances discrimination of conscious anger expressions under continuous flash suppression

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The continuous flash suppression (CFS) paradigm has been increasingly used to study unconscious visual perception. To compare to studies in patients with brain lesions, and to backward masking studies in healthy participants, we bilaterally presented whole-body postures expressing fear or anger in an emotion discrimination task, and rendered the stimuli invisible in either one of the visual fields. We found that the CFS paradigm did not sustain the classical redundant target effect that would facilitate responses when the unconscious emotional bodies had congruent emotions; instead we found a facilitation effect on reaction times induced by the body stimuli of incongruent emotions, especially by the unconscious fearful body on the discrimination of conscious angry body. Our result with healthy participants showed similarities to hemianopia patients without blindsight, but not to blindsight or neglect patients, indicating that unconscious visual processing is not a single phenomenon, but is likely to involve multiple mechanisms, processes and brain regions. Further studies are necessary to validate the facilitation effect of fearful bodies on other tasks, and to study the neural substrates of this effect.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-331
Early online date23 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019